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Not Your Average Novel Unit

Do you do read-alouds in your classroom?  I taught in a class for students with autism for 10 years.  I had students in grades kindergarten through 5th grade.  Some students were early readers, some students could not even identify their name.  Some of my students could hold an hour long conversation with me on the fine features of Thomas the Tank Engine and some students were unable to utter a single word.  I was tasked with helping every single student grow and thrive while learning what their typical peers were learning a few classrooms away.  One of the ways I did this was by reading novels to the class as a whole group activity.  Sounds a little crazy, but it was great.

My “not your average novel units” were born from this amazing experience.  I was not reading these novels to my students for a comprehension purpose.  I was reading to them in hopes of connecting on a personal level.  I was reading to them in hopes of teaching them to sit and listen (or at least be quiet) while an adult was speaking.  I was reading to them in hopes of sharing my love of books and stories.  So, with each chapter, I found myself trying to come up with an activity that would help them make a deeper connection to the content without relying on their ability to decipher and comprehend what I was actually reading.

These novel units do just that.  With each chapter, I develop one or two activities that tie to a concept introduced on those pages.  This isn’t as easy for me as it seems.  With each novel unit I start, I worry, “Will I be able to think of what to do with the next chapter?”  Sometimes the idea comes right away as I am reading.  It is easy to see a thread to pull on and use to build a great activity.  Sometimes, it is not so easy.  Sometimes it is REALLY difficult.  Some chapters, I just want to skip.

When I was doing the novel unit for Where the Red Fern Grows (a favorite story of mine from childhood), I totally forgot that one of the characters in the story falls on an ax and dies.  It took me 3 days and LOTS of conversations with my daughter (who was home from college) before I could come up with an acceptable activity.  I really just wanted to skip that chapter, but in the end, I decided it related to when you really need to call 911 and when it is not really necessary.

I currently have competed over 20 novel units.  They take me a long time, usually about a month.  There is a lot of love, time, and thought that goes into creating these.  If you are looking for a different approach to teaching your novel units, check these out.  I hope you love them as much as I have loved creating them.  Click on the image below, to download some free activities to go with the novel, Matilda by Roald Dahl.

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Here are the other novel units I have in my store:  Special Needs for Special Kids.

Be sure to sign up for my FREE Resource Library.  You might even find one of these novel units there completely FREE!!

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Being a Good Sport

cam newton

As I watched the Superbowl on Sunday, I couldn’t help but notice the behavior of these “idols” to many and hoping they would live up to their image.  For the most part, it was a great game filled with excitement and some disappointment.  But, there were some times that emotions ran high and our idols were less than idealistic.

Monday morning found me struggling with this idea of being a good sport, and how important it is to teach our students this quality in a structured, focused and purposeful way.  Many typical kids learn these skills from coaches and other adults who influence them while honing their athletic skills on the court, field or pool.  However, what about those students who simply do not have the skill or desire to play a competitive sport?  These skills are equally important, and we need to teach them at an early age.

Of course it takes LOTS of practice but we need a place to start.  A social story is the perfect way to introduce this topic and start some good conversations.  You can download this FREE copy of my social story : Being a Good Sport by clicking HERE or on the picture below.

Being a Good Sport Social Story

I have created some activities that go along with this story and you can grab the entire unit in my store on TPT.  There are sorting activities for several different learning levels as well as a booklet for students to make.  Grab all 30+ pages by clicking on the image below.

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Being a good sport is not always easy, but it is very important.  Learning how to win and how to lose graciously is something every student deserves to be taught as well as witness from their heroes.

Teaching the Letter of the Week

Do you use a letter of the week strategy in your classroom?  I found it a helpful way to teach letters and sounds in a self-contained setting.  After years of tweaking, I came up with a lesson plan that not only was engaging and helped students make real world connections but greatly decreased my stress level.  First, I knew repetition was going to an important part to my teaching.  It was necessary for my students but had to have variation to keep their attention.

Note:  if you are a more visual person, watch the YouTube video at the end of this post.  It pretty much covers the same material. 

So, I started each lesson the same way:  with a song.  Each student had an alphabet chart so they could follow along.

alphabet board color

My favorite song to use was Dr. Jean’s I’ve Got the Whole Alphabet in my Mouth.

Next, we would read the letter of the week book.  By the end of the week, the students could read it along with me.

letter of week books

After the story, we would start to fill a large circle map.  I drew a large circle on poster board, added Velcro, and using a post-it note, placed the letter of the week in the middle.  Students would then take turns bringing up pictures that started with that letter.

circle map pics

Next, I would choose a group activity based on the day of the week:

  • Monday:  Scavenger Hunt
  • Tuesday:  Pick up the Plates Game
  • Wednesday:  Art Activity
  • Thursday: Cooking Activity
  • Friday:  Social Skills Activity

After the group activity, students would do an individual activity, again, depending on the day of the week.

  • Monday:  Circle map
  • Tuesday:  Letter collage
  • Wednesday:  Sorting activity
  • Thursday: Sorting Activity
  • Friday:  Assessment

Finally, I would end the lesson with some technology.  We loved using Youtube and Starfall.com.  There are so many cute songs and videos you can quickly find about the letter of the week.

If you would like to see if this method works for you, click below to download a FREE letter of the week unit to try from my store on teacherspayteachers.  It includes all the above activities and lesson plans.

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You can also watch this FREE 4 minute how to video on utilizing these materials:

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Repetition Repetition Repetition

This 4 minute video talks about the importance of utilizing repetition in your daily lesson plans.  I walk through an example of how I used one of my favorite tools, a literacy unit.  I never felt like I was cheating my students by repeating the same lesson plan several days in a row.  I just was strategic in making sure there was some purposeful variation to keep them engaged.  By day 5, the kids would be so excited because they could predict what was coming and could read along.  Boy, do I miss those days!!  Happy teaching to all you still out in the trenches.  You are making more of a difference than you will ever know.